SXSW Film '10 — Crying with Laughter

Joey Frisk is a stand-up comedian on the brink of success. And he needs it.

His relationships in tatters and his finances a wreck, Joey (played by Stephen McCole) is currently scraping at the bottom of his dignity bowl.

It’s at this low-point in Joey’s life that he meets Frank Archer, an intense man who claims to be a childhood friend. At first spurning Frank’s attempts to rekindle a relationship that Joey can’t even remember, the comedian turns the odd experience into an act for his routine. Their relationship changes when Joey is framed for grievous bodily harm against his landlord — a man he publically threatened during one of his comedy routines — and Frank is the only one willing to offer a hand to him.

Unfortunately, Frank’s motivations may not be entirely seeped in nostalgia. It soon becomes clear that Frank, a former Special Forces commando, has ulterior plans for his childhood friend and randomly reuniting with Joey wasn’t exactly so random.

Writer/director Justin Molotnikov developed the story behind Crying with Laughter through improvisation sessions with actors McCole and Malcolm Shields, the actor who plays Frank. This fact is made all the more impressive due to the fact that the movie is a tightly plotted thriller with some very clever uses of chronological experimentation. Unlike most movies based out of improv, Crying with Laughter plays like a top-notch mystery with a clear, intended path.

Professional in every way, Crying with Laughter is an extraordinary debut from a first-time feature filmmaker — beautifully shot and expertly acted.

While the story unfolds like a pretty standard suspense thriller, it’s the sharp dialogue and well-developed characters that help to create an intense, memorable ride. Audiences will forgive similarities to other films when they are sucked into the story because of an immediate bond they form with the film’s leads.

The film flat-out deserves mainstream recognition. Watching Crying With Laughter, audiences can rest easy in the knowledge that they are viewing the entrance of one of tomorrow’s best filmmakers.

Category: Festival Favorites

Director: Justin Molotnikov

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit www.sxsw.com/film.